AS the region emerges from the pandemic and the effects it has had on tourism and the hospitality industry, Mildura Regional Development (MRD) is working hard to develop new attractions for Sunraysia and its surrounds.

A bold idea first mooted more than a year ago, is to have an installation of renowned British artist Bruce Munro’s ‘Field of Light’ installed in two locations either side of the Murray River. One being at Perry Sandhills near Wentworth and the other at Lake Cullulleraine.

This week Mr Munro visited Mildura with his wife Serena and the couple travelled to Lake Cullulleraine with MRD CEO Brett Millington to see the site where the installation is planned to be located.

Mr Munro was honoured with a smoking ceremony performed by rangers from the First People of Millewa-Mallee Aboriginal Corporation.

Mr Munro explained what is planned for the Lake Cullulleraine and Wentworth sites.

“There are actually two different installations for Mildura, one on the New South Wales side of the border and one on the Victorian side,” he said.

“The idea was to try and create two very different experiences. The installation at Lake Cullulleraine is designed to be a very much quieter experience, where people can be more meditative and walk around and enjoy the nature around them.

“The escarpement site in NSW is more of a light and sound experience and so they are quite different concepts.”

Mr Munro has a solar powered Field of Light installation at Uluru which has been an enduring tourist attraction since it was created in 2016 and continues today.

This exhibition was Mr Munro’s first in Australia and it features 50,000 spheres of light, the largest and most remote iteration of this artwork to date.

The Lake Cullulleraine installation however, will dwarf that.

“These installations are completely different to Uluru. I think every installation deserves its own identity,” Mr Munro said.

“Thirty years ago Serena and I were living in Australia and travelling around in an old Toyota Corona with a tent in the back and we visited Uluru which was on our ‘bucket’ list stops.

“I carry a sketch book wherever I go and the actual landscape really captured my imagination and heart.

“I felt the energy in the landscape and I wanted to express that. I had studied painting and sculpture when I was younger and I happened to be working in lighting in Sydney at the time and that developed into the idea for the Field of Light. It took me 20 years to take the idea from concept to reality.”

The lights that form the display for both of the installations in Sunraysia will be solar powered.

“Technology has changed a lot and I have always been interested in it. But it is one thing to be led by technology, but I think art is about trying to express more than that, it’s about feelings and thoughts,” he said.

“So it’s a combination of going with your heart and your imagination, but also using technology accordingly.”

If all the stars align and the funding to support the project is in place, the objective is to have the installations in place by September next year.

“There is a lot of work to do and I live in the UK these days and we have a team of people and who have been working on this project for more than a year and a half in terms of developing prototypes, working with music and making sure it’s all fit for purpose,” Mr Munro said.

Once the lights are manufactured they will be shipped to Australia and the installation will then take place.

“It will take a couple of months to install and the making takes more than a year,” he said.

“There is a huge amount of work that goes into it. There will be more than 12,000 stems of light for the Lake Cullulleraine installation and each stem has 25 points of light coming from them.

“If you multiply 25 by 12,000 – it’s a large number 300,000 points of light and they will move in the air – several hundred thousand points of light gently dancing in the air.

“This is my first visit to Cullulleraine and it’s a beautiful area and my initial impression is that it’s a bit like an oasis.

“We’ve just been up in the red centre and so in comparison, this is incredibly fertile and green and the air is cooler which is nice, although I know it does get hot here.

“My aim for this piece of work, bearing in mind we have just come out of COVID and we are in the midst of the terrible happenings in Ukraine, is that this is an opportunity for people to escape their busy lives, come out from the cities, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and also for the locals here to come to a place and decompress and find a more positive side of life.”

Mr Munro was asked how people will be able to engage with the Field of Light installation.

“They will be able to walk around this beautiful lake and discover it and it will be big enough for people to spend quite a lot of time exploring and discovering,” he said.

Mr Munro has installations in California, Uluru and he is about to do one in Japan.

“The installations in Mildura are two very important pieces,” he said.

“They will be on different landscapes and it is my latest work which I am looking forward to seeing come to fruition.

“The installation will remain in place for as long as people feel it is relevant, Uluru was meant to be there for a year and it’s still going and that might continue for a while and if we can do the same here, then that will be wonderful.”

Mr Millington said that the plan is for the installations to stay in place for five years.

“It is great to be able to have Bruce and Serena here today and to be able to welcome them to country and our thanks go to the rangers from the First People of the Millewa – Mallee who performed that ceremony today,” Mr Millington said.

“They will be will be an important part of this project. They have some works that they are proposing to have at Ned’s Corner, which will help compliment this installation and we are really excited about this and the great opportunity it will create for our region.

“Lake Cullulleraine is a bit of a hidden jewel out here and also the Wentworth site it will be amazing to be able to celebrate on both sides of the region.

“The whole project is called ‘Light State’ where light knows no borders.

“We all personally saw the impacts of border closures and this is giving us a great opportunity to launch back out of COVID and to show what we can do as a region.

“Applications for the funding for the projects have been submitted to both the Victorian state and the federal government and we have been in discussions with the New South Wales Government as well.”

The total cost of the project is $9.5 million

− JOHN DOOLEY